When Disney’s remake of The Jungle Book hit the cinemas, I was one of the first people in line to see it. As a child I was fascinated by the movie; by this boy who lived with wild animals and overcame such unheralded challenges, and I wanted my kids to experience the same intrigue I did.
As an adult, sitting in the cinema with an over-sized tub of popcorn I knew I’d never finish, I realised the movie that had captivated me so much as a child, holds just as much sway over me today. The only difference is this time it's because of the valuable HR lessons it provides.
Here are four key lessons The Jungle Book teaches us:
#1. Employee Inclusion
From the outset we see how Mowgli’s engaged and fully integrated relationship with the wolves. They have accepted him as one of their own and treat him just as they would any of the other cubs, despite his obvious differences. The result of this sense of inclusion is a loyalty and commitment to the pack that runs to the very core of our protagonist.
Employers and team leaders would be well advised to promote inclusion of all employees under their watch if they wish to get the very best out of them. Recent research conducted by the Gallup Organization, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review, shows organisations with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity, as wells as lower employee absenteeism and attrition.
#2. Encouraging Diversity
As was the case in The Lion King, The Jungle Book too teaches us that every creature in the Jungle, no matter how big or small, plays an important role in a complex cycle that ultimately leads to a flourishing and vibrant environment. Even in times of hardship and great change, as represented by the long drought in the movie, the animals adapt, acknowledging that their individual survival is dependent on their wellbeing as a collective.
In much the same way, more and more employers today are recognising the multiple benefits of diversity to their organisations. Having a broad range of workers – of different ages, gender, race, experience, sexual orientation, etc – with different viewpoints and skills helps keep a company evolving, recognising new opportunities and delivering results for its shareholders.
In 2015 a report by Grant Thornton demonstrated that boards with women on them consistently out-perform those with just men. Meanwhile an MSCI Report revealed that companies with more women on their boards deliver a 36 percent better return on equity than those lacking board diversity.
#3. Workplace Bullying
Earlier this year a survey we conducted into workplace bullying showed that four in 10 employees have been the victims of some form of workplace bullying at some stage in their careers. Sadly, our research also showed that in 80 percent of cases the victim took no action and the issue was never addressed.
Happily, in The Jungle Book, Sher Khan, the villain of our story, eventually gets his comeuppance. However, the cruel tiger’s intimidating and aggressive behaviour perfectly reflects the devastating impact a bully can have on workplace morale, employee wellbeing and organisational harmony. A decline in any of these areas will ultimately impact on staff turnover and your company’s bottom line.
#4. Role Models
Throughout his time in the Jungle, Mowgli encounters a number of key characters who impact hugely on the man he will ultimately grow-up to be. From Akela, the leader of the wolf pack, who teaches him the importance of unity and team work, to Bhagerra, who places huge value on rules and responsibility, to Baloo, who encourages him to embrace his natural talents and not to fret over the little things.
Role models aren’t just for our childhood or for kids’ stories. As employers and managers we should lead by example, extolling the virtues we hold dearest and encouraging our employees to do likewise. This is where the importance of company culture comes into play. You can’t expect a shop assistant to practice good customer service if she sees you being rude to a client.
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